Holland Cotter, Times Art Critic, Wins Pulitzer Prize

The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winners - Criticism

For distinguished criticism, in print or online or both, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to Holland Cotter of The New York Times for his wide ranging reviews of art, from Manhattan to China, marked by acute observation, luminous writing and dramatic storytelling.


Holland Cotter.


Holland Cotter has been a staff art critic at the New York Times since 1998. In 2009, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, for coverage that included articles on art in China.

Between 1992 and 1997 he was a regular freelance writer for the paper. During the 1980s he was a contributing editor at Art in America and an editorial associate at Art News. In the 1970s, he co-edited New York Arts Journal, a tabloid-format quarterly magazine publishing fiction, poetry, and criticism.

Art in New York City has been his regular weekly beat, which he has taken to include all five boroughs and most of the city's art and culture museums. His subjects range from Italian Renaissance painting to street-based communal work by artist collectives.

For the Times, he has written widely about "non-western" art and culture. In the 1990s, he introduced readers to a broad range of Asian contemporary art as the first wave of new art from China was building and breaking. He helped bring contemporary art from India to the attention of a western audience.

Born in Connecticut in 1947, and raised in Boston, Cotter received an A.B. from Harvard College, where he studied poetry with Robert Lowell and was an editor of the Harvard Advocate. He later received an M.A. from the City University of New York in American modernism, and an M. Phil in early Indian Buddhist art from Columbia University, where he studied Sanskrit and taught Indian and Islamic art.

He has served on the board of directors of the International Association of Art Critics. He is under contract with Alfred A. Knopf for a book on New York City modernism. He is also working on a study of contemporary Indian art, and on a poetry manuscript.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Articles

China’s Legacy: Let a Million Museums Bloom
Most art is an unsettled category in China and museums have complicated uses.

July 4, 2008artsSeries.Art
Buddha’s Caves
On the lip of the Gobi Desert, sand and tourists threaten Mogaoku’s singular art.

July 6, 2008artsSeries.China’s Female Artists Quietly Emerge
Among the hundreds of commercial galleries in China’s cities, art by women is hard to find. Yet the art is there, and it is some of the most innovative work around.

July 30, 2008artsNews.The Power of Mao, Multiplied
In the flashy new China, you can still find that famous face behind velvet ropes, as well as in art, ornaments, collectibles, postcards and flea markets.

August 3, 2008artsNews

April 20, 2009, 4:45 pm

Holland Cotter, Times Art Critic, Wins Pulitzer Prize


By Dave Itzkoff

Holland CotterForgive the self-reference for a moment: Holland Cotter, an art critic for The New York Times, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, it was announced Monday afternoon. In its citation, the Pulitzer committee said it was honoring Mr. Cotter, who has been a staff critic at The Times since 1998, for “his wide ranging reviews of art, from Manhattan to China, marked by acute observation, luminous writing and dramatic storytelling.” In a speech to Times staffers this afternoon, Mr. Cotter said, “Esoteric is something I just haven’t explored yet; weird is what makes me want to get up in the morning.”

A Times Topics page on Holland Cotter can be found here. Among some of his recent pieces we highly recommend are “Buddha’s Caves,” from July 6, which chronicles his visit to Mogaoku, the Chinese Buddhist caves on the edge of the Gobi desert; and “Artist’s Life: Cut, Nip and Tuck,” from Monday’s Times, in which he reviews “I Am Art: An Expression of the Visual & Artistic Process of Plastic Surgery” at Apexart in TriBeCa.

We also highly endorse “Young Artists, Caught in the Act” from April 10, a review of “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus,” the New Museum’s inaugural triennial featuring only artists who, as the title suggests, are younger than 33. It closes with these incomparable paragraphs:

“Younger Than Jesus” doesn’t have a comparable sense of unity, texture or lift. It is, despite its promise of freshness, business as usual. Its strengths are individual and episodic, with too much work, particularly photography, making too little impact. But my point is that beyond quibbles about choices of individual works, it raises the question of whether any mainstream museum show designed to be a running update exclusively on the work of young artists can rise above being a preapproved market survey. Removed from a larger generational context, can such a survey ever become a story, part of a larger history? (The same question applies to museum exhibitions that leave young artists out of the picture.) I’m asking. It’s a complicated subject. I don’t know the answer.

In any case, a generational challenge has already been taken up elsewhere. A small commercial gallery called BLT, on the Bowery across from the New Museum, has announced that its May exhibition will consist exclusively of artists born before 1927. Louise Bourgeois, Lucian Freud and Ellsworth Kelly will be among the participants. The show will be called “Wiser Than God.”